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Compensation for Emotional Distress in a Car Accident Case


Emotional distress caused by a car accident can at times be worse and longer-lasting than a physical injury. In some cases, victims are entitled to compensation for emotional distress. However, this type of loss cannot be easily quantified, making it more challenging to prove. 

What is Emotional Distress? 

Emotional distress is defined as mental suffering arising from a traumatic event, such as a car accident. The symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common ones include:

  • Appetite changes
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory issues
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Increased alcohol use
  • Sleep disturbances
  • PTSD (i.e., severe anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts about the abuse)
  • Trouble focusing on daily life

Severe emotional distress can also result in physical symptoms. For example, tension headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, weight loss or gain, lack of energy, and gastrointestinal issues can all be caused by emotional distress.

How Can I Recover Compensation for Emotional Distress? 

Unlike a physical injury that can be substantiated with medical records, emotional distress can be much harder to prove. The reason is that there is rarely documentation or not much of it to establish financial losses related to emotional distress that can be reimbursed. 

To have the best chance of success, you must treat psychological harm just as you would a physical injury and seek medical treatment immediately. That can include visits with a doctor, psychologist, therapist, counselor, etc. Medical records and physician notes verifying the treatment you have received will be critical, as well as: 

  • Insurance claims or receipts of payments made to your physician or therapist. 
  • Testimony from your attending physician or therapist verifying the extent of your emotional distress, how it impacts your life, and the expected length of recovery. 
  • A list of or receipts for your prescribed medications.
  • A daily journal detailing your emotional and physical symptoms, as well as how they impact your routine or limit your activities. 
  • Records of missed work and lost wages (if applicable). 
  • Testimony from family members and friends, confirming your mental state and the impact on your life. 

All of this evidence can be used to bolster your car accident claim and recover the compensation you need to recover. 

Types of Compensation Available for Emotional Distress

Victims able to successfully prove severe emotional distress from a car accident can often obtain the following types of compensation:

Medical Bills

You are entitled to reimbursement for any current and future medical expenses related to treating your emotional distress, such as counseling bills, prescription medication costs, etc.

Lost Income

If you have been unable to work due to your emotional distress, you can recover compensation for your current and future lost wages. 

Pain and Suffering

Similar to emotional distress, pain and suffering is a subjective loss. To come up with a figure, the total amount of economic damages (e.g., medical bills, lost income, etc.) will typically be multiplied by a number, often between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of your psychological harm. This will give you a rough estimate of how much you can obtain for your pain and suffering related to emotional distress. 

If you have a history of psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression, an insurance company may argue that your condition was pre-existing and not caused by the car accident. However, you are entitled to compensation when a pre-existing psychological condition is aggravated due to the collision, and a White Plains car accident attorney can help you fight for the financial recovery you deserve.